Skrip - tyur' - i - ent: adj. Possessing the violent desire to write.


#318 In which our hero writes the rare new blog post; not surprisingly to commemorate Father's Day.

Dear Dad,

I’ve been working on a project. It isn’t something I’ve been dreaming of, in fact, it’s not even something I much want to do. But it is something that I must do.

I’m rehabbing the cabin.

For the two people who stumble across this blog in the future while googling “Cabin in the Woods” or some such thing and actually get past the three sentences above, let me explain.

My family owns a small hunting cabin in the Allegany National Forest Reserve. Wait, wait… here, I’ve written about the cabin before:

Okay, all up to speed?

So, Dad, I’m working on the cabin. Things deteriorated in a big way in the last several years. The roof started leaking really badly, there was extensive water damage, and just about everything started getting moldy.

And since I bought the cabin from Mom and Uncle John a couple years ago, it’s my responsibility.

The Scientist can’t be in the cabin at all right now, her allergies and asthma make it a miserable experience. The last time we actually stayed inside (probably eight years ago?) she could barely function. I now understand that the place was full of mold.

To fix this, I basically gutted the place and tore it down to the studs. Tore out the stupid drop ceiling, effectively eliminating where chipmunks could live. It’s a huge amount of work, and every time I feel like I’ve made progress, I look around in despair for all the work yet to be done.

I keep telling myself that this work will all pay off in the future, when The Scientist and our kids can just run up to the cabin—an impromptu weekend visit whenever the spirit moves us. I’m doing all this work now so we can all enjoy it in the future.

Except, that’s a lie.

Well, partly a lie. I want the go up there, I want my kids to have the same fun there that I did. And I certainly want my wife to be able to enjoy it and not be miserable.

But there’s this other thing, too. You loved that cabin so much. The peace and quiet, the opportunity to catch up on your reading, sitting around the fire at night talking with family. I never asked you what your favorite place in the world was… but I would be very surprised if it wasn’t the cabin.

You’ve been dead and gone for more than 20 years now. And since you were cremated, I don’t have a place to go to visit, to pay my respects.

Except the cabin.

I’m not an especially religious man, but if there was one place where I could “commune with your spirit” or what-not, it would be there. Around the fire ring, to be specific.

My effort to remember you, my tribute to you, as it were, is to keep the cabin standing.

 So I keep going up there, alone, to work. It’s really kinda scary up there at night when there’s no one else around. But the being creeped out at night, the aches and pains the following week… they’ll all be worth it.

Because the cabin will go on. As will my memories of you.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I miss you.




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#317 In which our hero thinks about racism and a big-fat cartoon–show cook and how he might be more like her than he’d really like to admit.

There’s been quite the kerfuffle on the Internet about the revelation that Paula Deen used the word “nigger” when she was younger and might just still be a bit racist. Now, I’ve seen this woman on her TV show, and find her to be a cartoon character with her over-enthusiastic “ya’lls” and overabundance of butter. And I guess I’m not surprised to hear that she thought a slavery-themed wedding might be a fun idea

The general defense for her actions seems to be “that was a long time ago.” This got me thinking about my own past.

I grew up in a tiny town in eastern Ohio, near Youngstown. It’s located right in the “tri-state area” of Ohio, western Pennsylvania and the panhandle of West Virginia. It’s not the deep South by any stretch, but when I reflect on my youth, it’s clear there was a subtle, but prevalent, undercurrent of racism happening.

It was probably most evident in the language we used. When describing a temporary repair that is just thrown together, someone might say they “jury rigged” it. When I was a kid, we would say “nigger-rigged.” In fact, this is still the phrase that comes to mind even today when I’m describing something cobbled together. I don’t SAY it, of course, but I am embarrassed that this is the term that my brain automatically generates.

I know I did say this and, for what it’s worth, I know I didn’t say it with malice. This seems odd to admit, but it was just the term I was taught, I don’t think I ever considered the greater meaning. I might say “My seat fell off my bike, so I nigger-rigged it until I could get home.” I’m sure some of my friends did say it with malice, like “He used a coat hanger to nigger-rig his muffler back on, just like a stupid Black.” This isn’t meant as a defense of my slight racism, just an explanation.

As kids, we also played the game where you run up to someone’s house, ring the bell, then run away. My wife did this too, and she called it “ding-dong-ditch.” We called it “nigger knocking.” I realize now, as an adult, that that is just horrible. But again, it was the phase I was taught.

To be clear, I was never taught any overt racism. That is to say, my parents didn’t instruct me in the ways the negro race was inferior or anything like that. In fact, I think my parents were pretty progressive, given the time and their upbringing. But there’s no denying the subtle racism that was just present in my community.

There were exactly two black kids in my school, brothers. They were one and two years older than me. In high school terms, that means I really had no interaction with them. I can’t remember anyone being outright racist to them, although I’m certain that had to deal with it in subtle and not-so-subtle ways all their life.

As I ponder this, I realize that there was another act of racism that comes to mind that had nothing to do with these brothers, but in many ways was much more overt.

Three blocks from my house there was a guy who married an Asian woman. I realize that I really know nothing about them. They very much kept to themselves. I have the impression of the guy being a little twitchy and odd. I have absolutely no reason to believe this is true, but I always thought he was a Vietnam veteran suffering from PTSD (even though I wouldn’t have thought of it as “PTSD” then) and she was his war bride. This may be complete fantasy on my part. They had a daughter, who was considerably younger than me. Which means she was probably five or six years younger, a span of time that seems insignificant now, but in middle school/high school terms it means we were never in the same building at the same time, so she might of well have been in a different state.

There was a definite feeling of “otherness” to this family. Their front door had the knob in the middle of the door, not offset to one side, like you’d expect. Today, I’d think it looked like a Hobbit door, but I had not yet really gotten into Tolkien then, and I always thought of it as an “Asian” door, whatever that meant. I suspect now that it was just some architect trying to bring a little interest to an otherwise completely typical ranch style home… but then, it was (to me) a clear declaration that this family was different.

The mom used to walk her daughter to the bus stop, and wait with her until she got on. This was in and of itself a little unusual, being that this was small town America in the late 70s/early 80s, when parents basically let their kids run wild all over town and didn’t have to worry about them being kidnapped or killed. But, this woman stop heavily accented broken English, so clearly this wasn’t the world she grew up in.

Now, in 2013, as a parent myself, I can empathize. How scary must it have been to not know the culture, not really speak the language, and send your only child away for eight hours every day?

Our school district was pretty strict about where you got on the bus. It seems ridiculous to me now, but the bus made three stops alone the major road that bordered my neighborhood. Each stop was a block apart. Why they didn’t just have us all walk to the one location I do not know. I mention this, because I need to make it clear that I never personally witnessed what I’m going to describe next, only heard about it second hand, as it happened one bus stop farther down the road from mine.

This Asian mom was apparently a stickler for the rules. And the rules said that everyone waiting for the bus should stand in a single line, by age. Again, no other parents came out to wait with their kids except this one woman, so she was alone in her futile effort to keep everyone in line. Apparently, she was constantly telling the other kids (most of whom where my age) to please get back in line. In fact, she did it so often, that my friends made up a song about it.

It wasn’t clever, or even especially funny, even though we all laughed like idiots when anyone sang it. Thirty years later, I can still remember it clearly. It was sung in a stereotypical “Asian” sing-song voice:

“Oh no-no
Don’t get out of line,

I like to believe that my friends weren’t so terrible that they sang this in front of this woman or, worse, TO this woman. But they probably did.

If this woman had been Black, and a bunch of kids sang some sort of Amos & Andy song to her, it would never be tolerated. But because the Asian population was so small in my hometown (it might have been exactly one at that point) and, more to the point, since no-one was on the lookout for racism toward Asian people, things like this went on. And on.

I don’t know whatever became of this family. They stayed and dealt with it, or they moved on, I’ll probably never know.

If someone called me out for the racism I exhibited as a kid, I’m not sure what my answer would be. I suspect it wouldn’t be much different than Paula Deen’s. “It was a long time ago.” “Everyone said it then.” “I don’t say that stuff any more.”

Does that make me just as bad as her? I’d like to think not. But, I might just be fooling myself.



#316 In which our hero writes his annual Father's Day letter to his father (four days late)

Dear Dad,

I’m late with my Father’s Day letter this year. Part of it is that I’m just not feeling this blog any more, and part of it is that writing you dredges up all the emotion about you not being part of my life anymore.

When I get introspective, I realize that I not only miss being able to ask you questions about life and marriage and raising kids (especially about raising kids), but I’ve that also lost the ability to say, “Hey Dad, look. I made this.”

The thing is, career-wise, I am currently more successful than I’ve ever been in my life. That’s not to say that I’m burning down the world with my amazing creativity; but I’m not sitting alone in a cube just doing what I’m told any more either. I’m a Creative Director, I have a team that works for me and together we do some really good work. People look to me to help shape the future of this agency. I’ve only been here six months, but it’s still pretty amazing and humbling.

I wish I could show you some of the work I’ve done, explain the process, tell the behind-the-scenes stories about bickering with the client before finally coming to consensus.

I want you to know that the investment you made in me paid off.

Not just financially, even though I’ll never take it for granted that you and mom paid to put me through college. While friends of mine had to struggle with mountainous student loan debt, I was able to start my adult life without that crushing burden.

But more than that, I want you to know that every time you read me a comic book, or said encouraging things about my drawings or humored me when I stayed up all night making maps for my next D&D campaign, you were supporting my creativity, feeding my need to express myself through words and pictures.

And now I have a career in which I do that, all day long.

You could have pushed me into a more stable vocation, like accounting or engineering. But you understood that professions like that held no interest for me.
In fact, you never pushed me in any direction, other than to find out for myself where my passion was, what kind of thing I could do for the rest of my life and be happy doing it.

I see how rare that is now, even though I didn’t appreciate it at the time.

This Father’s Day (well, this 4-days past Father’s Day) I want to say that I am thankful that you trusted me enough to make my own way in life. And even though the path I took wasn’t the straightest or the best, I finally ended up where I was going.

Thanks, Dad. I miss you.





#315 In which our hero hears of a fairly amazing experience involving his daughter; and is proud.

Little background first: my daughters (currently aged 7 and 8) ride the bus to school. This started last year; before then I was working at a place in Akron which forced me to leave early in the morning and The Scientist likewise had to leave early, so I dropped the girls off at daycare in the morning, and they then transported them to school.

But now I’m working downtown, and don’t have to leave the house nearly as early. So I have time to wait until the bus arrives at 7:25, load up the girls, then get to work in plenty of time. I usually get to work early, in fact. Which is ideal, as it gives me to time catch up on my email and Facebook, and do things like write this.

Last year the bus driver was Mr. Chuck. We liked Mr. Chuck a lot. Always waved and said good morning to me, played the radio, and generally was a nice guy. As an added bonus he lives only a couple blocks away from us. Oh, and Mr. Chuck is black.

This year we have a different bus driver, Miss Debbie. She seems nice, if not as gregarious as Mr. Chuck.

So, The Scientist took the girls to Speedway a couple of weeks ago to get Slurpees. They ran into Mr. Chuck. The following conversation ensued:

THE SCIENTIST: Mr. Chuck! You’re not driving the girls this year.
MR. CHUCK: No, they gave me a different route.
TS: That’s too bad.
MC: Who’s driving your girls this year?
TS: Actually, I don’t know. My husband puts the girls on the bus. Macey, who’s driving your bus this year?
MACEY: It’s a lady. I don’t remember her name.
MC: A lady? Is she black or white?
MACEY: I don’t know what you mean.
MC: Well, is she a black lady or a white lady?
MACEY: I have no idea what you’re talking about.
TS: Macey, Mr. Chuck is asking if she has light-colored skin or dark-colored skin.
MACEY: OH! Dark colored skin!

I was fairly amazed when I heard this. Macey didn’t understand what “black” or “white” meant in terms of race.

My first reaction is that The Scientist and I are doing a pretty damn good job of raising our kids. And other people we’ve told the story to have said the same thing.

But I don’t know. I mean, yeah, we’re not racists, and we have no motivation to make sure our 7- and 8-year-olds know about the race division in the country… but I don’t know if we’re actively teaching tolerance in our household. Is simply not pointing out the differences in race tantamount to teaching racial equality?

And we’re middle class white people, so the truth is we have it pretty easy, racially speaking. I imagine that Mr. Chuck’s kids don’t have the luxury of not knowing what “black” or “white” mean.

Or maybe I’m over-analyzing the experience. I’m proud that to my 7-year-old, skin color is no more important than hair or eye color. I’d like to think that her mother and I have had a part in this attitude.

But more than anything, I’d like to believe that this is just the reality of children today. That the world is so racially diverse, that it’s just not important what color your skin is. That for this generation, it’s just not a thing any more. But I’m not sure I believe it. Not yet.

But I have hope.